Denominational Jigsaw Puzzles: Who Am I and Where do I Fit in?

denominational

Denominational commitment……the time where one makes a decision about which church denomination they will worship God under is a fork in the spiritual road that I missed somewhere in my Christian walk. I’ve been a Christian for 30+ years and I still don’t know where I fit in.

My Spiritual Beginning

I started reading the bible in 1982. My then wife had a very basic bible that I picked up and started reading one day and from then on I was hooked.

I admit that I’m pretty ignorant about a lot of things. What the different denominations stand for within the Body of Christ is one of the subjects I know the least about when it comes to spiritual issues.

Every day during my 2 hour lunch breaks I used to hop in my car and go over to San Antonio Park and read the epic stories in the bible.

I remember coming home from work each day and excitedly sharing the stories I had read in the bible that day.

Shortly thereafter I began watching Christian television. The service I watched aired at 8:30AM each Sunday morning. I used go into the bedroom alone and close the door behind me. For the next hour I sat devouring God’s Word presented by an amazing teacher.

A few short months later, after finding out what I needed to do to become a Christian, I accepted the Lord into my heart alone, in my car at the park on my lunch break.

Soon after, we began attending the church whose services I watched on TV and remained members of that church for quite a few years.

My spiritual life had its share of ups and downs and my closeness with God grew over the years. I studied my bible and developed a very healthy prayer life.

A Denominational Orphan

Over the past 30+ years the subject of denominations rarely came up in the circles I traveled in. I admit that I’m pretty ignorant about a lot of things. What the different denominations stand for within the Body of Christ is one of the subjects I know the least about when it comes to spiritual issues.

The first church I joined was a non-denominational church. I suppose non-denominational is its own denomination so if I had to make a guess as to where I fit in, I suppose I’m non-denominational.

But somehow non-denominational doesn’t sound as cool as Episcopal, or Presbyterian. And the coolest of them all in my opinion is Pentecostal. When I hear someone say, “I grew up Pentecostal” it carries the idea in my mind that they are a real authority on the scriptures. Forget about the fact that I have no clue what a Pentecostal is.

The few times I’ve asked what the different sects stand for, the answers I got were as clear as mud.

Did I miss something in scripture? Was there a time in my spiritual life when I should have chosen one of these denominational roads to travel? Is simply believing in Jesus Christ and the bible enough without having a denominational attachment?

I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that there was one God, one Son and one bible, yet there were what seemed to be a myriad of different denominations who all had different takes on what the one God has said. It was a little overwhelming to me.

Carrying my confusion even further was the fact that I learned that you could be kicked out or excommunicated from some of these denominations for doing certain things. I searched for scripture to reflect these practices but failed to find any.

I Guess the Joke is on me

At one point in my young Christian life I heard of the Baptist denomination. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this one is easy to figure out. They believe in Baptism”. But then, my friend told me that he was baptized in the Methodist Church! As soon as I thought I was on my way to figuring out this denominational thing they changed the rules in me.

As a boy I had learned that Martin Luther King was a minister as well as a civil rights leader. So naturally when I heard of the Lutheran church, you can probably guess who I thought held a prominent position there.

Of course I later found out that Martin Luther King had nothing to do with the Lutheran church.

Throwing my hands up in confusion with the denominational jigsaw puzzle within the church, I reasoned that I couldn’t go wrong as long as I kept my head in my bible and kept Jesus at the forefront of my mind and heart.

Denominational Cluelessness

To this day I still have no idea what I would be classified as other than a believer in Jesus Christ. I still don’t have a clue what the different denominations stand for and what the differences between each one is.

I suppose researching denominations just isn’t that important to me, because surely if it was I would have learned what the differences were and aligned myself with one of them by now.

What matters most to me is loving the Lord my God with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength and loving my neighbor as myself. If occupying my time with these isn’t enough, I guess I’ve failed.

The reason for this article is to let those who are out there searching for which denominational road to go down that you aren’t alone.

You’ve got a completely clueless denominational buddy over on the west coast who has somehow survived just fine living on loving the Lord Jesus Christ without any denominational ties.

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12 Comments

  1. Pamila (Pam) Perkins

    There are an EXTREME amount of differences among the denominations. I was baptized as an infant into the Catholic faith. As I grew in my faith as a young adult, I started attending other faiths with friends. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. In my mid-30s I attended a Disciples of Christ church & was baptized by full immersion. I moved away & started attending a wonderful Baptist church. I have since been baptized at this church. When anyone asks what religious group I belong to I always tell them that I am a follower of Lord Jesus Christ. If they ask what church I belong to my answer is the Baptist church. God's word says that true religion is taking care of & supporting widows & orphans… so I try to make it a priority to do this. True doctrine is in the Holy Bible. Most religions have man-made doctrine. I could go on & on so I won't take up more of your time. God's abundant blessing to you!

    In Christ;

    Pam
    San Antonio. TX

    • Thank you for your comment Pam. What bewildered me early on as a Christian was if some of the doctrinal differences are man made. Why would so many people voluntarily fall in line and agree/believe in them if they had no scriptural bases? But then again, people have followed all sorts of charismatic leaders and movements down through history. I think there is something deep down within man that yearns to follow…whether what is being followed warrants following or not. Thanks again for your comment….

  2. This was an enjoyable read. I grew up in the Methodist church. When I was younger, I thought all the churches were basically the same, except Adventists didn't pierce their ears and went to church on Saturdays, and Catholics had the whole Mary thing going on. I also used to think that differences between churches were regional as opposed to denominational. I'm STILL learning about all the differences between denominations, and boy, is it confusing!

    What I have learned though, is that you shouldn't go to a church whose beliefs and doctrines don't sit well with you, especially when there is little/no Biblical foundation supporting these beliefs and doctrines. I think that's more important than being able to say I'm an Episcopalian or, I'm Pentecostal.

    • Thank you so much for your reply. What prompted this blog message was something that was in the message at church this past Sunday. The speaker was teaching on prayer, particularly the scripture where the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them to pray.

      Prayer is something that is a given. Once a person becomes a Christian they are expected to develop a prayer life, but rarely does anyone ever teach one how to pray. Then years go by and out of embarrassment, no one is willing to raise their hands and ask “please teach me to pray”.

      Denominations and what they all stand for was the somewhat embarrassing white elephant in the room for me. It seems like a bridge that should have been crossed after so many years, but never was.

      Thanks again for your comment..
      Have a Great Day!

  3. To me the difference in denominations is kind of a preference thing. Methodist and Luthern are more tradition based. They do many things the same way for centuries. Church of Christ are strict and by the book with rules and such (aka no instrumental and vocal music together). Baptist are to me the most diverse. Basically if you agree that the only way to baptize is by full submerssion you could call yourself baptist. Pentecostal are more charismatic and outgoing. To me there is not a ton of importance to the differences other than your choice. I think you should choose a church where you feel comfortable worshiping God in your way. Because like you said, it is all about believing in one God that came so that we may have life.

  4. This post made me smile. I suppose you could say I've been Baptist all of my spiritual life. I wouldn't say I was raised Baptist because I chose to go to church. And it was United Baptist in denomination. My husband and I switched to a Southern Baptist church when our youngest started kindergarten because it was in our town. Our children have been raised Baptist.

    However, I am a Christian. I struggle with many things that are considered "rules" that I don't find scriptural. Yet there's always someone who can use scripture to defend the reasoning behind their belief. So, I say all of that to say, I'm a Christian. I attend a church, and yes, my membership may even lie in a church, but I belong to a Savior.

    • Amen Carrie…I’m glad I could make you smile. Sometimes we can become content with where we worship, especially when we live in a small town where there aren’t a lot of church options available.

      Add to that the hassle of finding and changing churches and you have more and more people who are content to just say put (baring some tremendous church scandal).

      I agree with you. I’m content to be classified as a Christian and leave it at that. Thanks for your comment…

  5. Again, Greg, I can identify with your thoughts here. I grew up moving around, and although my parents were raised in a certain denomination, we often went to different churches when we moved to a new location.

    Then, in my 20's when I personally accepted the Lord, my husband was in the military and I started attending services at the post chapels, which are basically designated "protestant" and "catholic."

    Over the years I learned about various denominational doctrines and realized that most were men's ideas about how to interpret certain Scripture passages. Whenever we can't thoroughly understand the infinite wisdom of God with our finite minds, we try to create formulas, and some folks get more attached to the formulas than the Scriptures.

    I think you are in a good place. I don't think any denomination has it completely right about the non-essentials. When we focus on those things, we miss Christ.

    • Hi Gail,
      Thanks for your comment. All these years I thought I was alone on my non-denominational island. It appears that this island has quite a few inhabitants that I wasn’t aware of.
      Thanks again….have a great day!

  6. Interesting post. When i was a kid i heard about "free will baptist" .. and people said it so fast, to my young ears, it sounded like they were saying "three-wheel bapists" .. so i was looking out in the parking lot and didnt see any three-wheeled cars ….
    so i was pretty confused.
    I like your comment that essentially non denomination is a denomination.
    There are many reasons to have a denomination. Sometimes its just preferences, like style of worship or style of music ..
    They are not that hard to research if you want to do that .. just google each one you hear of and go to their site.
    I used to kind of be against denominations, but ive come to understand that they are just different varieties – sometimes even for good reasons.
    but, there is no need to become part of one if you dont want to ..
    or to even investigate if you dont want..
    we have freedom in christ.

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